Vol. 1, No. 11 (July 1, 2008)

Migration: Security and development

Alimirzamin Askerov
Head of human rights, democratization and humanitarian problems department
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Republic

Introduction.  After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the migration issue became linked with threat of extremism and terrorism.  But such an association is flawed despite the popular belief that the status of being an illegal migrant could predispose an individual to terrorism.  The main motivations for migration include fleeing violence and persecution, seeking greater economic opportunity, and state failure.  Migration is a social-political phenomenon that can promote development in the migrant’s country of origin and country of destination.  Migrants can supplement the labor force in the country where they settle, and promote economic growth.  By continuing to define immigration as a security threat, many countries limit the possible positive effects of immigration.
Some analysts argue that securitization of migration would help to insulate host countries against security threats posed by immigration and further mobilize the world community against terrorism.  On the other hand, if states connect migration with terrorism, they must take strict measures to provide security for its citizens.  However, there is a certain risk to this approach since the governments do not always implement their policies successfully when it comes to immigration.  As a result, the government can loose public trust if the intended measures do not improve security; these issues illustrate the political complications associated with taking a hard-line against immigration.

Despite its strategic location as a crossroads between East and West, Azerbaijan has limited experience with immigration when compared to the EU.  As the EU works to devise immigration strategy, Azerbaijan should observe the successes and failures of this endeavor and adopt the positive aspects from the EU example when appropriate to Azerbaijan’s future immigration policy.  In this paper I will outline some of the challenges facing EU policymakers related to immigration and present case studies from individual EU states.  Then, I will briefly describe the status of immigration policy in Azerbaijan and speculate on how the EU cases could apply to future Azerbaijani immigration policy.  

EU Immigration Policy.  In Italy, a government coalition tried a policy stipulating harsh restrictions on immigration while at the same time allowing a significant in-flow of labor migration.  In its public speeches, the government prioritized security issues and announced a harsh policy toward unregulated migration.  The government also announced the securitization of other spheres of activity.  For instance, they declared an emergency situation in March of 2002 when a vessel with 900 Kurdish immigrants arrived in Italy and implemented joint patrol of the Mediterranean Coast with other EU members.  Meanwhile, the government ignored the increased level of illegal immigration, continuing to legalize illegal immigrants, thus encouraging further migration.  This type of compromise between a harsh migration policy in theory and a more tolerant one in reality shows how the securitization principle was present only rhetorically, while government practiced a softer approach. 
Another example is the case of the UK government after the September 11th events.  Initially, the government tried to connect terrorism with the immigration control issue, with the UK Internal Affairs Minister calling for strengthened policy preventing the entrance of people suspected of terrorism.  But the government soon refused the securitisation idea and strived to get public support to implement full-scale labor migration policy, while avoiding statements on potential security threats.  
To avoid eroding public trust in government’s immigration policy, EU members moved this issue from control of the state to the jurisdiction of the larger European community.  Political activities at the EU level do not attract as much domestic attention and the EU often attracts external resources in the area of migration control and refugee protection.  Thus, the country gets a chance to avoid critisism for not observing human rights.  Yet human rights groups critisize the EU for a harsh migration policy.  Amnesty International and the European Council on refugees and immigrants believe that EU policy is harsh and is creating a “fortress Europe” that walls itself off from all who need its help.  Even people who receive refugee status live under permanent threat of deportation and conditions of limited freedom.  They have less rights than citizens of other non-European countries living in EU on a different basis.  
There are internal contradictions among EU members, too.  In June of 2007, Spain lodged an official complaint about Malta’s refusal to help the Spanish ship that saved immigrants at sea south from Malta.  European Commission vice-president responsible for justice, freedom and security Franco Frattini and members of the European Parliament harshly critisised EU members for refusing to assist countries like Spain and Malta, and for the absence of rules that lead to the death of immigrants in Mediterranean.  Frattini incorporated refugees’ interests into a strategy of standartisation of rules. But adopting standards on immigration in the EU is problemmatic, for some countries experience large inflows of migrants while others like Estonia and Latvia experience limited immigration.  These differences illustrate why Finland so strongly opposed to proposals on standartisation set forward by the EU commission (see Choe 2007, pp. 1-4).  Joe Shaw, professor of law at Edinburgh University, summarizes the issue in stating that “a single policy on strengthening of borders will collapse, once an issue arises of what to do with immigrants who reach territories or territorial waters of EU members… should all countries take responsibility for accomodating these people?” [1] 

Azerbaijan and migration issues.  Thanks to its geographical location between Europe and Asia, migration flows in Azerbaijan were always active and continue to grow.  During the first years of independence, the majority of migrants went to neighbouring countries (mainly Russia and Turkey).  In recent years, however, there has been a tendency of decreasing flows of migrants to neighbouring countries.  Moreover, because of its political stability and the growth of its economy, Azerbaijan is becoming an increasingly attractive country for foreign labor.
Since 2001, 5,932 citizens (mainly from Turkey, India, Georgia and UK) received permission to work in Azerbaijan.  However, unofficially the number of working migrants in the country is much higher.  Azerbaijan became not only the country exporting migrants, but also the one importing them.  For the effective regulation of migration processes in the country, Azerbaijan improved its migration policy at the legislative and institutional level and formalized the main goals of the country’s immigration policy: to regulate migration flows, protect national security, address the negative consequences of non-regulated migration and provide for migrant’s rights.  To further realize these goals, the President of the Azerbaijan Republic signed a decree in 2006 adopting a state migration program of the Azerbaijan Republic for 2006-2008. 

Conclusion.  To summarize the aforementioned issues related to national policy on immigration and applicable to the case of Azerbaijan, it can be concluded that:
Migration can promote the development of both countries of origin and the destination country and if effective policy is designed on the national level.

EU cooperation on opening a common labor market will further regulate migration processes and provide an example of openness and tolerance to non-EU countries like Azerbaijan as their own immigration policies evolve. 

All states should adopt special laws for protecting the rights of migrants and preventing discrimination.

Countries with low demographic indices or other development challenges should embrace student quota systems for immigrant communities, and create preferential conditions for furthering their integration to society. 


[1] http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/07/197.


Choe, Julia (2007). “African Migration in Europe”, Council on Foreign Relations, July 10.